Happy election day, everyone! Chances are, if you’ve already exercised you civic duty to vote, you’ve taken to Twitter to air your participation in democracy to the masses. Currently, #Election is the number one trending topic in the world, and a glance at the live stream of its related tweets provides bursts of news about candidates, races, and issues.
Its place atop the Twitter totem pole was prearranged — it’s a “promoted trend,” which ensures it will stay on the list, right there above #bieber4australia. But while topics have mostly been bought by, for example, film studios hyping a movie, the organization backing #Election is none other than The Washington Post. As a spokesperson for Twitter told Poynter, it is the first time a media organization has promoted a hashtag on the social networking site, marking a type of collaboration that might predict how the old guard will utilize the microblogging service’s ranking functions in the future.
When a Twitter user clicks on #Election on the left sidebar — or whenever it’s included in a tweet — the aggregated tweets containing that hash tag will be filed under a tweeted link to a Post story. The message that the paper now has in that prime real estate says “Can Michelle Obama give Harry Reid the boost he needs? A last-minute campaign swing.” Then it links to the story.
With such a fast-track to Twitter’s showcase of the moment’s most vital topics, The Washington Post is making a bid to be the indispensable resource for all things election day, at least in the eyes of Twitter devotees. Though it will certainly give the paper’s website some sort of boost today, the “Election” hashtag is essentially worthless by tomorrow. The Poynter story doesn’t indicate how much the paper paid for the exposure, but it will take more than one day befor any real integration between Twitter’s 140-character bulletins and something like the Post‘s fully formed news reporting can take place.
Regardless of how many extra hits the deal brings the Post, this kind of stunt will most likely take place again. As Twitter grows it will become a more accurate reflection of the world’s news pulse, and at this point we can agree that even our oldest and most cherished media organizations need Twitter more than Twitter needs them. With the estimated value of Twitter now equal, or perhaps higher, than that of The New York Times, this is becoming less and less surprising.
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